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Key Insights Into the MBA Admissions Process

AIGAC Member Brett EthridgeSince 2009, the AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey has solicited feedback from MBA applicants across the globe on their application experience, framing and driving conversations with key influencers in the MBA admissions space including applicants, schools, advisors, and other stakeholders. The results help business schools and AIGAC members learn about applicant perceptions of each stage of the admissions process so that they can better service their clients and prospective students along the way.

The results of the 2015 MBA Applicant Survey were released on Monday, June 15th, and below is a summary of some of the key findings. Approximately 821 respondents completed the survey. The full survey results and analysis will be posted on the AIGAC as soon as they’re available, so click here to check back to see when they’ve been posted.

How Candidates Make Their Application Decisions

  • A school’s reputation and potential impact on future career remain the top reasons for why applicants choose which schools to apply to (Figure 1);
  • Most applicants (>75%) apply for full-time MBA programs, though female applicants are more likely to apply for “diverse” programs like joint degrees or part-time MBA’s;
  • Women apply to fewer schools than their male couterparts, on average, but are accepted to the same number of schools, indicating that women have a higher yield when it comes to business school admissions.
2015 MBA Applicant Survey Results

Figure 1

Expected Career Outcomes

  • Consulting is the most popular career choice for prospective MBA’s — more so for men (~43%) than for women (~38%), a result that is consistent with last year’s survey (Figure 2);
Figure 2

Figure 2

  • Finance/accounting is the second-most desired career for applicants for the second year in a row;
  • Women’s interest in entrepreneurship has increased from last year’s survey results, while for men the result is down slightly;
  • Prospective MBA’s expect a 45% increase in their salary upon graduation, though women have lower starting salaries than men going in to business school and thus their expected earnings are also lower than their male couterparts (Figure 3).
2015 MBA Survey Results

Figure 3


  • Nearly 90% of respondents submitted a GMAT score instead of a GRE score in their business school applications; however, female applicants (14%) are more likely than men (6%) to submit a GRE score (Figure 4);
  • Men reported submitting a GRE score instead of a GMAT score because they felt it gave them more flexibility in the types of programs they could go after; women reported submitting a GRE score because they felt it was a more favorable test format and had a higher potential outcome and/or because they had struggled with the GMAT in the past;
  • Women (82%) are more likely than men (76%) to pay for test prep services;
  • The GMAT remains the leading source of anxiety for applicants during the MBA admissions process, calling a low GMAT score the “smoking gun” for why they didn’t get in to a target school.
more women submit a GRE score than a GMAT score when applying

Figure 4

The Application Process

  • Male applicants (52%) are more likely to use an MBA admissions consultant than their female counterparts (37%);
  • 30% of respondents started working with an MBA consultant more than 6 months before their application deadlines;
  • Respondents indicated that Duke Fuqua and Chicago Booth got to know them best during the application process (Duke and Dartmouth were the top two schools the previous two years);
  • Women feel that the video essay portion of certain applications represented them well, whereas men didn’t feel like the video essay represented them well (Figure 5).
2015 MBA Applicant Survey results

Figure 5

Recommendations Initiative

At the annual AIGAC conference in Philadelphia a couple years ago, there was a lively discussion about the ethics around recommenders asking their MBA applicants to write the recommendation themselves. Positively, results from this year’s MBA Applicant Survey indicate that the number of applicants who were asked to write their own recommendations by their recommenders was down from last year. Even still, AIGAC has launched a new initiative on its website with tools and resources to help recommenders understand why it’s important to write their recommendations themselves. This initiative is being translated into multiple languages. For more details about this important initiative and to use these resources with your recommenders during your own admissions process, visit http://aigac.org/.